On 20 March 2020 the government announced the launch of its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Scheme), which is intended to pay employees who would otherwise be redundant or subject to a requirement to remain away from work without pay and are instead designated as "furloughed".
The coronavirus pandemic is likely to throw up some interesting challenges for employers and their liability insurers. How are the courts likely to approach the novel situation where employees may seek to claim for injuries arising through exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, and how can employers and their insurers take steps to protect themselves from a tidal wave of claims?
On 12 June, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) kept its promise and published updated guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Although the guidance on the scheme is now extensive, there are still gaps that need to be filled and, in the words of novelist James Stephens, there are definitely lumps in it. The main gap is that the guidance does not set out in any detail what happens from 1 August when employers have to start contributing to the cost of the scheme. This lack of technical detail around how to calculate what to pay is a major concern. This could lead to two possible outcomes: a state of flux over an employee's furlough and some returning to work earlier than planned or more worryingly, possible redundancies.
Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, who had even heard of the word "furlough?" It seems that every week we are adding new words to our lexicon. With the recent launch of the contact tracing app, we now have "test and trace"; "Zoom fatigue" is being used to describe the mental exhaustion associated with online video conferencing, which is causing employees stress and anxiety; and now we have a "roadmap" for the opening of the employment tribunals. We bring you news of all of these in this article, which summarises the latest developments in employment law.
Getting to grips with the furlough scheme is like wrestling with an octopus – every time you think you have it under control, another tentacle in the form of a new piece of HMRC guidance appears and you have to start again. The changes avoid a cliff edge scenario, which employers and employees alike were fearing. If the scheme had ended completely on 1 July then it was feared that this would have generated mass redundancies. However, employers are going to have to make an increasing contribution towards the costs of furlough leave, as this article describes. There is genuine concern that this may be enough to tip some employers over the edge and generate redundancies anyway.
The judgment handed down in Adams v Options SIPP UK LLP by the Chancery Division of the High Court may give SIPP providers some comfort on their exposure to liability when acting on an execution-only basis and a SIPP member suffers loss on an investment made through their SIPP.
Since our last article on 7 May, there have been two major announcements: the start of a return to work, and the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This article looks at these issues and some other developments that HR professionals and employment lawyers need to be aware of.
This case sets a clear precedent which has been welcomed by SIPPs providers given the increased litigation in this space and use of the FOS in determining complaints (which can now be validly rebutted).